What States Can Do - Part IX: Head towards zero waste

My rationale for this series of blogs has been about how different states in different nations can learn from each other by sharing policy ideas that work. Adopting and adapting policies from other jurisdictions has certainly paid dividends for South Australia over the decades. In Australia, the state of South Australia is often seen as a policy and reform leader but for many of our initiatives we have borrowed ideas from around the world.

One of those areas of leadership is waste management and recycling. South Australia has now achieved a recycling rate of nearly 80%. This means that last year 4.3 million tonnes of materials were diverted from landfill to recycling. On a per capita basis, this was the best result of any state in Australia. In an era of climate change this is important, preventing the equivalent of more than 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. Environment Minister Paul Caica recently put this achievement into context saying our recycling efforts equate to taking about 300,000 passenger cars off our roads or planting 2 million trees, in a State with only 1.6 million people.

Back in the mid 1970s we were the first state in Australia to introduce container deposit legislation. We borrowed the idea from Oregon. We are still the only state, even though it has been a spectacular success.

It is not complicated. Consumers are given a 10 cent rebate on each bottle/can/drink container they return for recycling rather than throw away into the garbage. This has stimulated a strong local recycling industry. It has also proved a popular fundraising tool for sports clubs, community organisations and charities who send members out to collect cans and bottles that are taken to depots to exchange for cash. Most importantly, these incentives have resulted in much cleaner cities, roadsides and waterways.

In 2009, South Australia became the first state in Australia to ban the non-reusable plastic bags used in supermarket checkouts. Around Australia, 3.93 billion plastic bags are used and discarded every year. South Australia's share was about 400 million.

These bags can take hundreds of years to break down and can end up in the litter stream causing harmful effects to aquatic and terrestrial animals. Discarded plastic bags are also a highly visible, ugly blight within communities. They make cities and suburbs look shabby.

Banning plastic bags is a world wide movement. On July 1st, Pasadena joined other Californian cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, in banning the bags. On the same day Seattle embraced a city wide ban on carry out plastic bags. In Canada, Toronto recently decided to eliminate its unpopular 5 cent levy on plastic bags, replacing it with a total ban from January 2013.

When I announced our ban, the retail industry piled on the political pressure. We were told it would be a disaster for shoppers and for shops. It would make it very difficult for national retailers to have a different regime in our state rather than have a uniform approach across the continent. Jobs would be lost. Consumers would be angry.

None of this happened. We went ahead with the legislation even though all other Australian states caved in to retail pressure. Given plenty of time to prepare for the day when cloth 'green bags' replaced non-reusable plastic bags, the changeover went ahead without a hitch.

I was also warned by colleagues that there would be a political backlash from South Australian voters. This didn't happen either. In fact, the ban proved immensely popular. People were proud to do the right thing for the environment. Polling shows 80% of South Australians support the ban and the figures for young people were even higher. There is also a high level of compliance by shoppers bringing their own 'green bags' to grocery stores. It has now become a habit and shoppers have proven smart at estimating how many bags they need for larger shopping trips. Stores that resisted the move now boast about their green credentials.

Electronic waste is becoming a real problem around the world. Yet much of what is used to make computers can be recycled. Around 1.5 million computers are dumped in Australian landfill each year. Their reusable material includes ferrous and non ferrous materials, glass and various types of plastic. Computer cases are 90% steel while CRT tube monitors are 95% glass. Flat screens are made of glass, plastic and metal. All this can be recycled.

In December 2011 our state government agency Zero Waste SA, in association with a group of local government councils and a major brand owner Apple, coordinated a two day metropolitan wide E-Waste collection event. 607 tonnes of E-Waste was collected from almost 10,000 participants. Zero Waste SA is now working with a large number of councils to encourage E-Waste to be recycled.

The Southern Hemisphere's first television and computer glass screen recycling and processing plant has also been established following funding from Zero Waste SA.

In 2002 South Australia's local councils diverted only about 20% of kerbside collected garbage from going to landfill dumps. Through incentive grants provided to councils by Zero Waste SA, kerbside recycling has increased dramatically to around 50% with some councils achieving much higher rates.

In 2008/09 ten South Australian councils participated in a comprehensive pilot project designed to encourage the recycling of household kitchen waste. Householders in the program were given a bench top container for food waste such as peelings, vegetables and meat scraps. These were then transferred into the garden 'organics bin' for kerbside collection and processing. The pilot achieved diversion rates of up to 71% and strong householder support for food waste recycling. The program is now being expanded to help 155,500 householders increase their recycling efforts.

Zero Waste SA, again with the assistance of local government, is also undertaking free household hazardous waste drop off days. This is helping householders dispose of unwanted chemicals that are dangerous if not stored or disposed of safely.

In 2010, the work of Zero Waste SA was commended by a UN Habitat report entitled "Solid Waste Management in the World Cities'" which examines trends in waste management. Our linking of landfill revenue to Zero Waste SA funding was described as an integrated and innovative strategy and the plastic bag ban was mentioned as an excellent example of South Australia's leadership. Our three bin kerbside collection system was also praised by international experts.

Describing our waste and recycling system as best practice, the UN said South Australia had demonstrated "a high level of political commitment to 'stick its neck out' and implement policies and legislation upon which other administrations take a more conservative position".

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

 

What States Can Do - Part VII: Plant forests

 

Last month at The Climate Group's States and Regions Summit in Rio de Janeiro, a significant milestone was reached. Members comprising sub-national governments from around the world announced firm commitments to grow more than 500 million additional trees by 2015.

This result was two and a half years in the making. At our Climate Leaders Summit held in December 2009, as part of the UN's COP15 meeting, we called on world leaders gathering in Copenhagen - including President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - to commit to planting 7 billion trees - one tree for every person on the planet.

They didn't heed our call for a forestry 'endowment' from Copenhagen. So I proposed that we, at the state and regional level, should again lead the way by committing to plant 1 billion trees ourselves by the same target date. The move, strongly supported at the meeting by then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, was endorsed unanimously by all leaders and ministers present.

Quebec and Scotland led the charge with a commitment to each plant 100 million trees by 2015. Both of these pledges are being delivered. Many other governments have joined the campaign including Aragon, Catalonia, Manitoba, Ontario, North Rhine Westphalia, Poitou Charentes, South Australia and Wales.

Under our 1 Billion Tree Initiative only plantings that would not have otherwise occurred are counted. Normal forestry operations and reafforestation projects already announced are not included in the tally.

At Rio I was delighted that Member States and Regions have now passed the halfway point in reaching our 1 Billion Trees target, with a combination of new planting commitments or increases to their original pledges.

A number of new members making commitments included the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, the French island region of La Reunion and KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Sao Paulo announced that it would add 200 million trees by 2015 through native forest restoration in its own territory ensuring both climate protection and biodiversity. This commitment comprises one fifth of the total 1 billion target and Sao Paulo has also announced it will build on this pledge with another 200 million trees by 2020.

One of the delights of our conference was hearing about KwaZulu Natal's plans to plant a fruit tree for every child in homes and schools.

At Rio, South Australian Environment Minister Paul Caica, representing the driest state on the driest continent, announced an additional commitment of 6.7 million trees to bring his state's total to 7.9 million trees.

Reafforestation projects need not only occur in rural areas. Greening programs in cities such as New York are gaining strong public and political support.

Back in 2003, as Premier of South Australia, I established our Urban Forest Program which aimed to plant 1 million native trees and shrubs across the Adelaide metropolitan area in a series of urban forests. This target, to help further green our city, was achieved in 2006 with the help of local government, schools, industry and volunteers.

We extended the program, increased the State Government's funding and raised our target to plant 3 million native trees and plants by 2014 across 300 project sites, ranging from large habitat restoration projects to smaller amenity gardens and local biodiversity projects. More than ten thousand people have participated including thousands of children and adults who have attended well publicised community planting days. We are delighted that twenty one local government councils have partnered with the State Government to improve our capital city.

The program aims to restore around 2,000 hectares of native vegetation using suitable areas of public open space including parks, reserves, transport corridors, schools, water courses, coastline and council land.

We believe our Urban Forest Program will result in a more beautiful, cooler and more liveable city. It will improve air and water quality and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 600,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. There is also a very strong educational component designed to raise the community's environmental awareness and actively involve people through workshops, talks, plantings and school projects.

Significantly, our Urban Forests Program is also creating and conserving habitat for precious wildlife. A report published in 2001 revealed that 97.3% of Adelaide's original vegetation has been cleared since European settlement in 1836. Land clearance and urban development had impacted significantly on native flora and fauna, with many species now locally extinct or threatened. So our program is also about preventing species loss.

Only indigenous trees and shrubs, native to the local area, are planted. Not only is this about ensuring that the genetic integrity of our native flora is preserved but it also helps reduce water use. Exotic or imported plants often require greater watering and support to survive our searing hot and dry summers.

After my return from Rio, I phoned Paul Caica's office to enquire about progress. I was pleased to learn that the program was on track to reach the 3 million target on time with 2,370,000 trees and shrubs already planted. The three inaugural winners of The Climate Group's Climate Change Leadership Award, Schwarzenegger, Charest and Salmond, will all have mini urban forests in Adelaide bearing their names. There is already one named after veteran Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki, who has inspired me over the decades.

I hope states and cities around the world will join us in similar urban forest campaigns.

 

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

C-Day in Australia

Last Sunday, July 1 was C-Day, the day carbon pricing began in Australia following one of the most bitter political divides in the nation’s history.

Until recently in Australia, state governments were the policy innovators as well as the ‘test beds’ for climate change action. Nationally we lagged behind the rest of the world, refusing to embrace an emission trading scheme of the type we have seen operate in the European Union, in parts of the United States and in our nearest neighbour, New Zealand.

The former Conservative Government, led for more than a decade by John Howard, had aligned itself with the Bush Administration in first denying the scientific evidence for global warming and then decrying action to address climate change as contrary to the national interest.

This made no sense because Australia is among the nations at greatest risk from global warming. Much of the hot, dry Australian continent faces the potential loss of high production farming land that remains a foundation pillar of the economy. Climate change poses a serious threat to Australia’s precious water resources because of the already marginal nature of much of its rainfall.

Australia is also the highest per capita emitter of CO2 on the planet.

Yet at climate change conferences and meetings of leaders around the world, Australia dragged its feet. Australia’s catch-up began with the election of Kevin Rudd’s Labor Government in late 2007. One of its first acts was to ratify the Kyoto agreement, but it was blocked in the Senate from introducing an emissions trading scheme designed to reduce our CO2 emissions.

Late last year Rudd’s successor, Julia Gillard and her Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, secured the passage through a bitterly partisan Federal Parliament of legislation to set a price on carbon. This wasn’t easy. Following an election in 2010, Labor was now in minority, relying on a small number of Independent MPs to remain in office.

In a package of measures, the legislation that came into force on July 1, is designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions as well as drive investment in clean energy. The new law will make Australia’s biggest polluters pay for the greenhouse gas emissions they create. In other words, they have been given a clear incentive to reduce their emissions intensity, in a transition to an emissions trading scheme.

The new carbon pricing mechanism now being rolled out is designed to minimize its impact on business, jobs and on the Australian economy. Economic modelling by the Federal Treasury has shown the carbon price will increase Australia’s CPI by around 0.7%. Australian families will be compensated for consequent price rises through a combination of tax cuts and pension increases.

To put this into context, the carbon price is expected to increase household electricity prices by 10% in 2012-13 which, for the average Australian household would amount to an extra $3.30 a week. However, the Gillard Government is providing an average of $10.10 a week in tax cuts and increases in family payments, pensions and benefits, particularly targeted at vulnerable low income households. In fact, about 90% of Australian households will be financially better off or fully compensated following the introduction of carbon pricing.

To prevent carbon leakage – in which trade exposed, emission intensive industries would be ‘forced to shut up shop’ and move to countries with lax pollution standards – a carefully designed industry assistance package to support jobs and competitiveness will be implemented. This assistance includes programs promoting innovation, investment and energy efficiency in manufacturing

The Australian Federal Government has expanded the nation’s renewable energy target to ensure that 20% of Australia’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. South Australia exceeded this target last year but nationally renewable energy accounts for only 5% of our electricity generation. A new Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) will also provide economic opportunities for Australian farmers and Indigenous communities while supporting productivity and enhancing the resilience of the Australian landscape. This will give an opportunity for ecological sequestration projects I wrote about in a recent blog.

The Government has also legislated to create a $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation to support the commercialization of renewable and low emissions technologies. It has a charter to drive innovation through commercial investments in clean energy, involving loans, loan guarantees and equity investments.

The conservative Opposition, currently way ahead in the polls, argues that the new carbon pricing arrangements will be a wrecking ball for the Australian economy. Its leader, Tony Abbott, claims there will be “unimaginable” price rises due to the carbon price. He has pledged to scrap the ‘carbon tax’, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and other parts of the July 1st policy package if he is elected Prime Minister late next year.

The scare campaign has so far been effective with the majority of Australians opposing the ‘carbon tax’ according to opinion polls. However, since the announcement of the carbon price, Australia’s GDP has increased by 3%, as has household consumption. Despite claims of a massive hit on jobs, new business investment has increased by 20% in a nation that has largely avoided the horrors of the GFC experienced in the US and Europe.

Significantly, senior business leaders haven’t ‘bought’ the scare campaign. Last year, GE’s CEO Steve Sargent said: “Australia is a laggard. We’ve seen that an ETS is already in place in 32 countries, with others on the way… Additionally, despite our challenges, the Australian economy is in far better shape than most other economies around the globe…Now is the time to take action, not continue to defer.”

Michael Fraser, CEO of Australia’s largest energy utility, AGL, also spoke out: “AGL supports the introduction of a price on carbon emissions as soon as possible to provide investment certainty for the energy industry as Australia begins the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Alan Oster, the highly respected Chief Economist for the National Australia Bank, scotched claims of an investment strike by the mining industry saying, “Is the mining industry going to stop investment because of a carbon tax? The answer is no. We just don’t see that happening.”

At Rio+20, Australia for the first time was seen as a leader in tackling climate change. It is now respected internationally for ‘biting the bullet’ rather than the ‘talk and defer’ approach that has bedevilled real progress on climate change internationally.

If we believe the hype, Australians, convinced by an Opposition and a shrill press that the economy and their lifestyles will suffer a catastrophic hit, are now bunkering down to see what happens after C-Day.

Some commentators believe that a continuation of Australia’s low unemployment, strong economic growth plus the rollout of tax cuts and benefits linked to carbon pricing, are likely to make the Opposition’s Armageddon claims appear hollow. Significantly, on the eve of carbon pricing, Tony Abbott pulled back his rhetoric saying that the impact of the carbon tax would be a “python squeeze rather than a cobra strike”.

Whatever the local politics, US legislators and the Obama Administration are likely to be closely watching the political, as well as economic aftermath, of C-Day in Australia.

This Blog was published on The Clean Revolution website. 

Mike Rann is an Ambassador to The Clean Revolution, an international environmental advocacy partnership based in the U.K.

Ecological Sequestration: two words to remember

Until the global financial crisis diverted attention there was the strongest international focus by the world’s political leaders, public and media on global warming. There were the strongest calls for sacrifices to be made for future generations, although more often than not people preferred those sacrifices to be made by others. Euro zone crises, a continuing recession in the United States and turbulent stock markets, have not diminished the climate perils facing our planet.

Let me recap. If the current rate of increasing emissions is maintained the world is on track for a 4c increase in average temperatures by the end of the century. An increase of more than 2c is considered by the United Nations to be intolerably dangerous.

Along with 'cap and trade’ programs (and I'm proud that Australia has now set a price on carbon) and a big drive on renewables and energy efficiency projects, there has been some attention given by governments, mining and energy sectors to 'geological sequestration'. This involves capturing CO² from coal and gas fired power stations and other industrial sources, pumping it to suitable sites and then injecting the CO² deep underground where it would be stored permanently. Suitable repositories would include the vast geological cavities left over from oil and gas exploitation.

A substantial impediment to a much larger deployment of 'carbon capture and storage' is the often massive infrastructure costs of pumping and piping compressed CO² from cities to remote areas.

Here at Rio+20 conferences and events, there is real interest in the technologies and rewards involved in ecological sequestration. With this different approach, CO² emissions are seen as a rich resource rather than a costly waste to keep a lid on. Ecological sequestration involves capturing the CO² from industrial processes, including power plants, but then transforming it into fertiliser to help make local farm lands more fertile.

Ecological sequestration is not some theoretical model. Indeed, the 'farming of CO²' is occurring right now in Australia with huge opportunities for millions of hectares of farmlands to sequester countless millions of tonnes of CO² as soil carbon each year. Soil carbon sequestration at Clover Estate in the south east of South Australia has demonstrated that this approach can be a win-win for the Australian economy, for farmers and for the environment, as well as producing more and healthier foods by reducing the use of chemical fertilisers while at the same time improving soil fertility.

The global champion of ecological sequestration is Peter Head, an award winning engineer and leader of the sustainable cities movement. Until recently he was a senior executive with Arup in London and directed work in China's ambitious Dongtan Eco City planning project. In 2008 he was named by Time magazine as one of the world's eco-heroes and by Britain's Guardian as one of the 50 people who could save the planet.

What is exciting for so many industrialists and policy makers about ecological sequestration is that it doesn't involve shutting down power stations. Instead CO² is harvested and transformed through technologies such as algal bioreactors into fertiliser and bio-fuels. This concept also embraces urban agriculture linked to water capture, compost and nutrients from waste digestion, including hydroponic greenhouse growing. The aim is to produce better quality local food and create jobs in a struggling community.

Through UK based NGO, the Ecological Sequestration Trust, Peter Head's team is actively pursuing a series of large scale demonstration projects in India, Africa, China and elsewhere to prove that resilient urbanisation can progress using coal and gas for base load power but with very low net carbon emissions. The Trust wants to accelerate the deployment of integrated new technologies to sequester carbon and advanced anaerobic digestors to produce valuable new revenue streams.

Through a series of 'demonstrator cities' the Trust wants to establish low carbon exemplars for sustainability and resilience. Already project sites have been selected at Chongming Island, Shanghai, China; Surat in Gujarat, India and Kigali, Rwanda in Africa. Each demonstrator location will involve a new Eco-City development, a new industrial zone as well as an area of rapid urban development close to an existing mega city. There is already high level political backing for these projects and I was pleased to join the Trust in discussions over Surat with Gujarat's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, in Ahmedebad in February.

The Trust is ambitious. It has to be. In the past 120 years the world's population has increased five fold but our resource consumption has grown twenty fold. By 2050, 75% of humanity will live in cities compared with just over 50% now. Cities still only occupy 2% of the world's surface but require vast 'footprints' to sustain them. Sprawling London, my birthplace, is said to require 125 times its own area to keep it functioning.

I believe the health and design of cities-trying to make them work better for people- will be a central policy challenge of this century for every level of government. Integrated design will be the engine of innovation for cities.

Through its regional projects the Ecological Sequestration Trust wants to demonstrate how to build cities with:

• Energy demand reduced by 50% over today's business as usual

• 30% of power station energy obtained from local biomass

• 40% of power station emissions harnessed productively

• Local food production increased by 30%

• Greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 80% over business as usual

• Improved health and well being indices.

I am not an engineer but smart policy makers embrace, and test, innovation. They measure results. They also see opportunities in challenges, even crises. I am convinced we will be hearing a lot more about ecological sequestration and its mission to turn CO² into a resource for good rather than our planet's poison.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website. 

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.

 

What States Can Do - Part VI: The Clean Revolution

In my first blog post in this series, I wrote about how South Australia, a dry state with no hydropower, had embraced renewable energy moving in less than ten years from no wind power to having 26% (compared to 3% nationally) of its electricity derived from wind, now exceeding coal generation for the first time. I also mentioned how we followed California and Washington in changing our emission intensity standards to effectively preclude the building of future coal fired power stations.

Later this week I will be travelling to Rio de Janeiro to attend The Climate Group's Clean Revolution Leadership summit. The Clean Revolution, launched by Tony Blair and Mark Kenber in New York last September, is promoting a swift and massive scaling up of clean technologies and infrastructure as well as changes in design and behaviour, to boost energy efficiency and achieve the most sustainable use of our natural resources. While the plan aims to secure steep reductions in CO² emissions, the Clean Revolution would simultaneously create jobs and boost the green economy. The Climate Group is acting as a bridge between governments and industry worldwide in embracing a lower carbon economy, by encouraging policy changes and new profitable business models for the future.

In Rio, I will also be chairing a session of The Climate Group's summit of leaders from States and Regions around the world. For some years these regular meetings have shared best practice policies to enable jurisdictions to adapt 'ideas that work' to their own circumstances. While media attention often focuses on the climate policies and international negotiations of nations, or more locally the greening of cities, the role of state, regional and provincial governments is critical to progress. A number of studies have shown that the majority of decisions affecting the environment are made at the regional level. Increasingly state governments are also working closely with cities to help them reduce their carbon footprints.

In Rio, I expect sub national governments to again set the agenda for nations in not only planning but implementing innovative ways of tackling climate change, just as we did in Copenhagen in 2009 with our '1 billion trees' initiative.

There are already some outstanding examples.

Last October, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, was awarded The Climate Group's international leadership award. It was well deserved. Scotland has committed to reduce its emissions 42% on 1990 levels by 2020. Scotland has a big commitment to onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power, as well as carbon capture and storage. Right now, Scotland is producing 35% of its electricity from renewables. It is aiming for 100% by 2020. With the potential to massively exceed its own domestic needs, Scotland is now planning to become a huge exporter of renewable energy with enormous dividends for its economy.

At The Climate Group's meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2010 sub national governments honoured Quebec Premier Jean Charest for his extraordinary leadership in tackling climate change. At that meeting Quebec, like Scotland, committed to plant an extra 100 million trees. Quebec is now delivering a range of innovative policies to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020 from 1990 levels. This would be a first in North America and is similar to the EU target. Given 97% of Quebec's electricity comes from hydro, most of its emissions need to be cut in the transport, housing and industry sectors. The province is now implementing a world leading Electric Vehicle Action Plan with the vision of achieving full 'sustainable mobility'. Quebec aims for plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles to comprise 25% of new light passenger vehicle sales by 2020.

In Manitoba hydroelectricity currently provides 97.4% of the province's energy needs. Its Premier, Greg Selinger wants to go further by making local power plants more efficient. Manitoba Hydro's energy conservation programs have already saved over 500 megawatt hours of electricity with big savings in emissions.

In California, where 40% of the state's emissions come from transport, its Advanced Clean Cars program is also spurring dramatic improvements in battery, fuel cell and related technologies. New rules require that one out of seven new vehicle sales in California be zero-emission by 2025. On the east coast not only has New York collaborated with neighbouring states in the development and implementation of the United States' first cap and trade emissions scheme, but has now helped launch the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network to promote clean vehicles and fuels, and electric vehicle charging stations.

La Rèunion, the French island region off the coast of Africa, is investing in experimental marine thermal pilot projects and providing €3,000 energy cheques to households for the installation of photovoltaic panels with smart storage batteries. In Brittany, the Regional Council has committed to cut growth in energy consumption by a third with a big investment in renewable energy, including solar, marine, wind and biomass.

Upper Austria has a strong network of 160 companies, employing 7,200 people, actively involved in the business of renewable energy and energy efficiency. In a big boost to Upper Austria's economy this innovative cluster is now exporting to more than 60 countries. In neighbouring Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia is a leader in energy research, with around 400 medium sized companies and research institutes working on fuel cell technologies and hydrogen fuels. It is also a leader in energy efficient construction and wind energy. Its geothermal sector has generated nearly 5,000 jobs.

Jämtland, a province in central Sweden, aims to be fossil fuel free by 2030. Already less than 8% of its carbon footprint comes from energy, and none from coal, oil or gas. It is a big exporter of excess renewable energy to other parts of Sweden and Europe.

In Wales, innovative policies are improving the energy performance of homes, particularly in disadvantaged areas, and in doing so boosting jobs, skills and economic regeneration. In partnership with energy companies and social housing providers, Carwyn Jones' government is working to improve home insulation as well as promoting the installation of solar panels and solar hot water systems. Last year, around 25,000 Welsh homes were improved and made cheaper to heat through upgrades to boilers and windows as well as other energy saving initiatives.

In Spain, the Basque Country's Appliance Replacement Scheme has seen, since 2008, around 30,000 old appliances replaced with much more energy efficient alternatives. This is saving households in their energy costs as well as reducing thousands of tonnes of CO² emissions each year. Catalonia, like South Australia, has embraced voluntary agreements with companies, local government and other institutions as a key mitigation tool in public climate policy.

In 2009, Sao Paulo in Brazil became the first state from an emerging economy to enact climate legislation introducing an absolute emission reduction target of 20% by 2020 and is a leader in aligning its climate change policies with all government practices. It is setting mandatory CO² reduction targets and its comprehensive Transportation Plan looks to improve the energy efficiency of vehicles and fuels including bioethanol and biodiesel.

Guandong province is a clear leader in China in pursuing a low carbon future. Earlier this year, its strategic plan for emerging industries was approved by the Chinese Government and is likely to become an exemplar for other regions in reducing its carbon intensity.

In South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal is developing a wide ranging Green Economy Strategy that includes a procurement policy that favours purchasing from 'green companies' as well as increasing the supply of renewable energy.

In Rio, members of The Climate Group's States and Regions Alliance will continue their important role of sharing ideas and acting as 'laboratories' for a lower carbon future. I am hopeful that in Rio sub national governments will jointly commit to an action plan for the future that will inspire the leaders of nations around the world to make a big step forward in the Clean Revolution.

This Blog was published on the Center for National Policy website.

Mike Rann is Fellow for Democracy and Development with the Center for National Policy, Washington, D.C.